Beautiful Things

Today I’ve been inspired by the ‘Daily Post’.  It provided 5 ideas for future posts one of which was ‘Ode to an object’.  I’ve taken the object part, but this isn’t quite an ode.  Most of my posts are about the human experience so I thought this might be a nice idea for a change.

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This is part of my ‘beautiful things’ collection. It’s from a collection by PIP Studio: a Dutch designer based in Amsterdam.  Her motto is ‘‘Happy products for Happy People’.

It’s a modern twist on a classic.  I love that it retains a delicate form, natural art work with a bit of an English feel. At the same time, it has a modern shape, style and colouring.  A cup and saucer is traditionally associated with an English afternoon tea.  Elegant ladies sipping on steaming tea, little finger gently pointing out.  This cup and saucer reflects today’s world.  Big enough for a good coffee held with both hands wrapped around it.

Buying my ‘beautiful things’ was a real change of direction for me.  They are completely superfluous to need and purely for my enjoyment.  I am generally careful with money and find it hard to be wasteful.  Other than my mortgage I have never been in debt.  I’ve had the same toaster, plates, bowls, cups, glasses, cutlery etc for over 15 years.  I believe in keeping things until they are broken or worn out.  I hate throwing things away whilst they are still functional.  I really look after things and get upset if I break something.  I pride myself on only ever having broken one plate in my home.

This all changed whilst I was browsing through a magazine.  My eye fell across an image of the beautiful things and I was hooked.  In my eyes they were perfect.  A bit quirky, a bit traditional and a lot beautiful.  I loved them on sight.  I made a note of the designer and the range so that I could invest in some when my existing items were broken. 

Over the next few days I kept thinking about the beautiful things and imagining all the occasions I could use them for.  What a shame I would have to wait.  And how long would I have to wait when I look after things so well?  For the first time ever, I just thought ‘Sod it’.  I love them and I deserve them.  I have nothing beautiful, nothing that I can cherish.  Everything I own serves a function.  And so began my collection of beautiful things.

I keep them in a cupboard rather than on display.  This is partly down to a lack of display space, and partly due to them being mine.  I don’t want to share them with just anyone.  They are for my enjoyment.  I will show them off but only to people that I know will appreciate them for what they are.  Every time I open the cupboard I smile.  Every time I use my cup I smile. My drink always tastes so much better.  I take in the whole experience, the smell, the heat, the taste, the clink when I put the cup back down.

I haven’t gone too mad.  I have a small number of items that I love.  The only thing I still want to get is a set of cake plates.  I haven’t quite found the perfect set (or even individual plates to make a set).  I know if I buy impulsively they will never feel the same so I am content to wait. 

So there we are.  My ‘ode’ to an object(s)…and yet again I have fallen to the human experience.  All is right in the world 🙂

Does this resonate with anyone else?  Do you have beautiful things just for you?  That one special possession or collection?

 

What have you done today to make you feel Proud?

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When was the last time you stopped and thought, ‘Actually, I’m really proud about that?’

I’m not talking about the big ticket items…running a marathon, saving a life, getting a book published.  I’m talking about the little things that might otherwise pass you by. 

Whenever I hear the song I can’t help but feel uplifted.  If you haven’t heard it then I would recommend you do.  I have to admit that it’s only recently that I have associated the words with my life.  Pride is something I thought related to other people. 

Some people associate pride as being a bit self-indulgent (especially us Brits).  It is often seen as something associated with big achievements and doing something out of the ordinary.  However, a quick review of definitions turned up this: “Pride describes a feeling of happiness that comes from achieving something.”  That’s it.  Feeling happy because of something you have done.  So why are we so reluctant to acknowledge it?

I was talking to my mum the other day, and she told me about a friends daughter.  The daughter had returned home from a job interview and told her mum that she was proud of how well she thought she had done. 

My mum could not comprehend that someone would be proud of something that other people do every other day.  Not only that, but that they would share such news with others.  I asked what the problem was and whilst she didn’t really provide an answer, she remained adamant that it was over the top.  It was a form of bragging or showing off.

The saddest part was when I asked if there was anything she was proud of.  She said no.  She had only done what lots of other people had done.  I asked if she was proud of raising her children.  This at least generated a pause for thought.  And yet the answer remained the same.  I had depression, my brother is divorced and distant with his own children and my sister has her own hang-ups.  She felt she had obviously done something wrong so no, she wasn’t proud.  I find this so sad.  My mum can’t feel proud of bringing up her 3 children on her own, because we haven’t turned out as she would have liked.

My mum has done some great things in her life.  The problem is that she, like many others, identifies achievement in terms of a successful outcome rather than the journey itself.  And perhaps this is the problem.  We need to remember that the journey is more important than the destination.  Whatever the outcome, you have tried, and that is better than doing nothing at all.

If you had asked me 6 months ago what I was proud of, I would have answered exactly the same as my mum.  I had nothing to be proud of.  Forget my career as a children’s nurse.  Forget my voluntary work with families and children affected with divorce/separation.  Forget travelling the world. Forget my award for bravery.  I was proud of nothing.  I was depressed, I was upsetting everyone around me, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything and I was good for nothing.  It is only through my recent experiences with therapy and learning about better managing my depression that I have been able to identify with pride.  And I’m proud to say that I can do it, and I enjoy it 🙂

So how is this relevant to us?  In much the same way that some people keep a Gratitude journal, I review my day in terms of what I am proud of.  Today I have made some phone calls that I have been putting off for ages, I got up early enough to get washing out on the line before work, and I have made a cake to take into work tomorrow.  Other proud moments included the day I got back to work full time.  When I was really low, it was that I’d managed to have a shower.  It’s something that most people do every day without thinking .  For me, at that time, it was a huge achievement and I was proud that I had managed it.

I would really love you to take a moment now to think about the question: What have you done today to make you feel proud? Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything. Let me know and I will try and help you figure it out 🙂

A little bit of something you like?

I am an avid follower of 61musings and today came across a great post on how people use the Like button in WordPress: LIking me Liking you 

I’m a fairly innocent soul and had never imagined that the Like button could be used for tactical reasons 🙂  I generally use it to say ‘Hi’, especially when I’ve been away for a while and have lots of posts to catch up.  Sometimes we are just posting for fun.  When I see a post that is interesting or relevant to me, I will delve deeper and have a full read.  I may even leave a comment if I have an opinion or related experience.  If it is someone leaving a post about a struggle they are having I will always try to have a read and leave a comment of support.  That’s me, very simple!

Anyway, the original post reminded me of (another) TED talk about the Like button on Facebook. I think I am fairly discreet on Facebook just liking the odd thing here and there.  How wrong I was.  It’s scary stuff and I highly recommend a look. The talk starts with the story of a pregnant teenage girl who received a ‘new baby voucher’ package through the post….before she had told her parents about the pregnancy.  This was purely based on what she was buying…and it wasn’t baby goods such as you might expect.  There is a huge amount of psychological research being undertaken about peoples ‘Like’ habits on Facebook.  Essentially a profile can easily be compiled for you based on this.  Moving forward, It’s possible that such reports could be generated for things like potential employers!!!  It’s all legal because ‘Liking’ is in the public domain!!

If you have the time, please have a look and let me know what you think 🙂

Ted Talk

 

Who I am

I have recently started a part time university course and have just completed a module on Identity.  At the same time I came across a truly inspiring TED talk about the speakers take on her own definition of self.  The speaker has a rare disease meaning that at the age of 24 she weighs just 4 stone.  If you are interested, I have included the link for you.  A truly inspiring lady.

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/How-do-you-define-yourself-Lizz;search%3Alizzie

As a combination of the talk and my study it obviously got me to thinking about my own identity and how I define myself.  Here on WordPress, my focus is very much on mood based topics.  I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life and it’s been great to share this experience with others, and to share lessons I have learnt along the way.  

Before watching this talk, I most likely would have described myself as someone with Depression.  But is ‘depression’ something that I want to use to define myself?  It’s absolutely had a major effect on my life and is something that I reminded of daily. A lot of the qualities I hold are due to my experience of depression.  But is it a part of who I am or is it something that I carry with me.  It can certainly feel part of me sometimes, but I think, on reflection, that I would prefer to keep it separate.  It’s something I have to deal with, but it’s not who I am.

I am a daughter, sister, aunt and neice.  I’m a great friend to some, a good friend to others and an acquaintance to yet more.  I am British, I’m a woman and I’m employed.  I’m single, I’m (*little cough*) young and I’m loved.  I’m a mentor, coach and trainer.  I’m educated, I’m a student of education and a student of life.   I’m an introvert, I’m a reflector and through that I am strong.  There are so many facets that make up ‘Who I am’, but from now on my illness will not be one of them.  It’s something I have, not something I am.

For those in a similar situation, I would love to know your thoughts.

A change is as good as a rest

When was the last time you tried something new?  Not something ‘big and exciting’ new, but just a little change to the norm.

This morning, I got a text from a friend, asking if I wanted to go to the ballet to see Swan Lake with her this afternoon.  Her husband had decided he just really didn’t fancy it anymore.   Ordinarily, my immediate response would have been to think of an excuse and politely decline.   I don’t generally ‘do’ spontaneity and especially not for a social event in a busy environment.   Today though, I knew I needed to get out and mix with people.  And I knew it was up to me to make it happen.  I quickly said yes, and arranged to meet outside the theatre.  What a great decision it turned out to be.

I’ve had a bit of a downturn this week and found myself really struggling.  At times it has felt like I was going right back to where I started, but I have continued to try all the techniques I have learnt.  It’s been really hard, especially given how well I have been doing.   Nothing has really seemed to help, but I have kept trying all the same.  Hence my decision this morning.  I could have stayed at home and not spoken to no one all day, but as tempting as that sounded I knew it wasn’t a good idea.

It was the Vienna Festival Ballet and was being performed at my local theatre.   I’ve never been to a ballet and have always wanted to.  I used to love my ballet lessons when I was younger.   I remember getting a white knitted wrap around cardigan and I would wear it all the time.  I had the special ballet bag with a separate section for my shoes.  Before each exam my mum would scrape my hair back into a bun and I would be so happy.    Despite this, I had never seen a proper ballet performance.

The theatre is about a 15 minute walk from my house so I decided to leave early and look round the shops first.  There was a sale at my favourite shop, so I had a look round and ended up buying a new dress.  I had seen it a few weeks earlier and tried it on.  It looked lovely on but it was just a bit too expensive, so having my size in the sale seemed a little too good to be true.  The market was in town so I took in all the sounds and smells, and the amazing range of goods on offer.   There was a stall selling homemade sweets, so I picked up a few bags to keep us going during the ballet.  I was running a little early, so stopped off at Pret a Manger to get latte and found a seat outside the theatre to wait for my friend.  I spent the time people watching and making up stories about their lives.  It was a lovely way to pass the time and to focus my mind on something other than the whirling thoughts.

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The ballet was just fabulous.  I loved it.  I had expected to enjoy it but wasn’t expecting to find it so absorbing.  The dancers can only be described as beautiful.  I don’t necessarily mean in the traditional sense, but the way they hold themselves and move like water.  It’s mesmerising.  On the surface, you don’t quite appreciate how much talent they have.  But the lines they create, how they hold poses on one leg, on their toes, for so long…and without shaking or wobbling.  The height of their jumps, the speed of their movements, the flow of their arms.  I’m smiling again remembering it all.

So that was my day.  One small change, saying yes, instead of no.  I’m not feeling a huge amount better, but I’m definitely not worse…and now I can close my eyes and see the dancers again.

Try it, and let me know how it goes?

Prevention is better than cure

Over the last year I have learnt so much about myself and how to manage my illness.  It hasn’t all been plain sailing but I feel I have reached the point where I can manage more highs than lows.  I admit part of it is drug therapy, but hey, I never claimed to be perfect.  My biggest lesson though is that if I don’t manage my illness then it manages me and I refuse to let that happen.  I’m the one in charge.

I have just reached the end of two hugely busy weeks, at work and at home.  The perfect breeding ground for a persistent harbinger of doom.  Time to turn up the lessons learnt and stay in control.

Fortunately, for the most part I knew what was coming so had the ability to plan ahead.  There was a major project rolling out at work for which I was managing the training (deadline Wednesday) and I was covering for a colleagues project whilst she was on annual leave.  I also had an assignment to submit last Monday for my degree course (psychology, obviously).  As with the best laid plans though, things soon went wrong.  The e-learning programme I was using waged war against me and my colleagues project hit some hurdles.  It meant me having to work into the evenings, and miss the time I had allotted for studying.  No worries though, I still had the weekend to do my assignment…or so I thought.  It soon became apparent though, that I was going to have work through the weekend to keep things moving.

The long and the short of it was that I got my assignment submitted on time, and I finished my e-learning programmes today, just two days late which had been pre-negotiated with the project team due to lack of IT support.  Each day this week I have been starting work at 8am and finishing at 7pm.  I am truly tired.

Tonight, I am sat at home writing this with a cup of tea by my side and Devon Sproule and her soothing tones in the background.  I am relaxed and calm and looking forward to the weekend and re-charging.  How on earth did this happen?  It happened because I focussed on prevention rather than cure.  Rather than jumping in head first and dealing with aftermath, I set up some preventative strategies.

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Prevention 1 – Where possible, plan ahead

I knew these two weeks were going to be full on, although hadn’t appreciated quite how much.  I didn’t make any social plans during the week as I knew I would be tired and need time to recharge.  I got up to date with all house hold chores ahead of the game.  I made sure I had healthy food and snacks in the cupboards…along with a small supply of chocolate.  I gave myself permission to leave things in a bit of a mess and did it matter if I left the washing up for a few days?  In all honesty, we’re just really talking mugs here, I as I haven’t been great on the cooking front.  On Wednesday I felt I needed a bit of distraction and headed out for a quick meal with a friend, something that I would most likely cancelled if pre-arranged.

Prevention 2 – Mindfulness

Strangely, the times I need mindfulness most are times I am most likely to put it off.  However, I made a deal with myself to keep it up, just 10minutes a day.  Looking back, it’s amusing that I would think to myself I didn’t have the energy for Mindfulness.  I didn’t have the energy for sitting in a chair with my eyes closed and breathing??  I kept it going though and I really felt the benefits in terms of being able to slow down my mind.

Prevention 3 – Self-talk

It’s just for two weeks has been my main mantra.  Each time I felt those nagging negative thoughts coming through I would challenge them straight away so that they couldn’t take hold.  Will I remember this in a months’ time?  It’s not your fault that the programme isn’t working.  You’re doing the best that you can.  You are going over and above what is required.  No-one is saying you have done anything wrong.  People are congratulating you for your efforts and achievements.   I trawled through my twitter feed which is heavy on positive thinkers. There was one tweet which came at the perfect time.  It read ‘You’re amazing. Remember that’.  It a generic tweet not addressed specifically to me, but at that time it might as well have been.  I read it, smiled, took a big breath and back to it.  I refused to let negativity get a hold.  (Like I say, I’m taking my meds and I’m able to do this)

Prevention 4 – Take a break

No-matter what, I would set my alarm for 45 minute intervals all through the day.  At the end of that 45 mins I would get up and walk around the office and top up my water.  If possible I would pop my head outside for a breath of fresh air.  At the weekend, I made a deal that I would do 2 hours ‘work’ in the morning and 3 hours of study in the afternoon.  For lunch I would go for a walk to town and wander round the market, grab a coffee and a magazine so I wasn’t all work.  I also picked a film to watch in the evening.  If I’m truly honest, despite the work, I found it a pretty cool weekend.  I didn’t feel like I should be working whilst I was taking time out and so was actually able to relax.  Giving yourself permission to relax makes the relaxing a whole lot easier.

So, that was my preventative strategy and it worked.  I’m relaxed with a sense of achievement and breathing a few sighs of relief.  In the back of my mind there is a little voice telling me that I will ‘crash’ in a few days but I’m not planning on letting that happen.  I’m going to keep up with the preventative strategy, give myself a few days rest (without guilt) and then get back to it.

Choose Your Attitude

Have you ever woken up and just hated the thought of the day ahead.  Maybe you have a long day at work, a hundred and one errands to run, a hospital appointment.  Whatever it is, it’s just going to be awful.  You know it.

But does it have to be this way?  You might not be able to change what happens, but you can definitely change the way you approach it.

A few years ago, at work, I was introduced to the ‘FISH Philosophy’*.  It had a significant impact on me and my approach to daily life.  I’m not perfect, I can’t do it everyday, but I do it when I can.  The Fish Philosophy was born from observations at a fish market in Seattle in the late 1990’s.  Working in a fish market has to be high on the list of worst jobs.  It’s dirty and smelly.  Your hands are frozen from packed ice.  You have to get up at stupid o’clock everyday.  You are on your feet for hours.  And you don’t get paid very much as a result.  However, if you visit the Seattle fishmarkets, you would find this hard to believe.  It is high energy, everyone is smiling or laughing, games are being played with customers….it feels more of a playground than a workplace.

Much research was carried out in the market place to discover what the secret was and they came up with the following:

Be There

Be there, is pretty much about mindfulness, before we had heard about mindfulness.  It’s about being in the moment and observing your surroundings and the things and people around you.  It always makes me laugh in the office when I pass someone in the corridor.  They’ll say ‘Hi, you alright?’.  By the time I answer they are already round the corner and out of hearing range!!  If you’re going to be there, Be There.

Play

At the fish markets, fish weren’t passed to people, they were thrown…and you had to catch them.  This obviously didn’t take the form random attacks, it was all part of the experience.  There was a small podium that customers could stand on to catch the biggest fish.  What can you do to implement play into your day?  It could be a random game of eye spy with the children in the car (or even your partner or friend).  How about picking a word of the day, and try to get people you interact with to say it? When I was a childrens nurse, working nights, I would leave some empty syringes lying around (without needles) for the children to fine.  They knew if they found one they could fill it with water and squirt me.  One of the parents once told me that they always knew when I was working as they could hear the laughter coming from the ward.  I nearly cried.   Be creative and have some fun J

Make their day

I was in a shop today and one of the assistants stopped me to say how lovely my dress looked.  I am still smiling about it now.  It made me feel so special and I was so appreciative that not only did she like my dress, but she had made the effort to tell me.  Such a small gesture, with such a huge impact.  Why don’t we do more of this?  A little tip: If you implement ‘Be there’, are you are more likely notice something to ‘Make their day’.  Let a car out of a side road and smile.  Pay special attention to the cashier.  The best thing is, that by making their day, you will also make your own.

Choose your attitude

We don’t always have control over the things we have to do, and most of our lives involve things that we dread or just bore us.  Choosing your attitude is a bit like acceptance.  You can’t change what you’re doing, but you can choose your attitude whilst you’re doing it.  Choose to do it with style and panache and a smile on your face.  Whatever it is, is going to happen.  You can either choose to be miserable whilst you’re doing it, or choose to be happy, or confident, or engaged, or anything else you want to be.

So, that’s the FISH Philosophy for you.

What can you take from this?

* http://www.charthouse.com/content.aspx?name=home2

I dare you…